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Remembering How The FBI Targeted Martin Luther King

10:23 PM, Aug 22, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --- The upcoming dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is reminding some of his followers of the intense campaign by a 1960s FBI to discredit him, largely because Dr. King was despised by legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

After King's " I Have A Dream" speech in August of 1963, an FBI memo said "We must mark him now...as the most dangerous Negro leader of the future in this nation."

Another memo asks for "a complete analysis of the avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader.

Yet another urges the agency to use "all available investigative techniques...to discredit" King.

"The campaign started with some information that several communists who were being controlled by Russia were possibly influencing King and were on his staff.

"It is true that they were on his staff, or were his friends, but the FBI did do wiretaps and found that they were not really influencing him. He didn't really care what they said. But Hoover continued after that, even though he knew it was not a criminal situation or a spy situation, and turned it into a big vendetta against King.

"He was offended that King was going to orgies but also he was jealous of King. King got the Nobel Peace Prize and he was respected, and he (Hoover) just carried on this vendetta and actually leaked material from the wiretaps, or videos or movies, or whatever they had in those days, to the press," said Ronald Kessler, author of the newly-published Secrets of the FBI.

"He did try to harass King. His people sent tapes of these orgies to Mrs. King, Coretta Scott King," Kessler told 9News Now.

"These wiretaps in those days really were illegal. They didn't have a law that allowed wiretaps so, in that sense, the activity was illegal, and it certainly was reprehensible that Hoover would continue to do this surveillance of King knowing that he was not being influenced by communists, and then leaking this material to the press. It's just a very sordid chapter in American history," Kessler said.

Hoover so despised King he wrote his reaction to hearing that Time Magazine had chosen King as its Man of the Year in 1964. "They really had to dig deep in the garbage to come up with this one, " Hoover wrote.

The FBI abuses became public in congressional hearing several years later, leading to changes in federal law designed to prevent similar behavior by today's FBI.

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